You've heard about it, your girlfriends are obsessed with it, and you're dying to see if it's as intense, exhausting and sweaty as they say. Ready to jump in to CrossFit? Not so fast.
The routine, which combines body weight exercises and cardio with weight lifting, is not your typical trip to the gym.
"Each workout is done with high intensity so you are pushing yourself as hard as you can, or want to," says Maddy Curley, coach at BRICK New York (v), a CrossFit box in NYC. If you're looking for minimum workout time (think 20 minutes a few days a week) and fast results, CrossFit could be for you.
Why are CrossFit studios called boxes? Any other terms I should know?
CrossFit studios are called boxes because they are more of a raw space than a gym organized by machine. You'll find weights, kettlebells, medicine balls, benches and racks, but no treadmills or ellipticals. Boxes are also devoid of mirrors, so you focus more on working out and less on how you look while you're doing it. (Do you really want to see your sweaty self anyway?)
Now that you know what the box is, study up on the terms you'll hear there:
WOD. "Workout Of The Day," or the series of moves you'll perform during your session, usually written on a white board at the Box. Most WODs are under 20 minutes, so they are very intense, and vary day to day. They combine functional exercises like deadlifts, pull-ups, overhead press, box jumps, and push-ups.
Benchmark Workouts. WODs that are recurring and extra challenging.
Clean, Jerk and Snatch. These "Olympic lifts" require one to lift weight from the ground and raise it overhead using a bar with weighted plates or bumper plates. They help build power and strength that aids performance in other movements and sports. Learn how to do a deadlift here.
Kipping. A way of using the power from your hips and core to do certain moves more efficiently.
AMRAP. "As many rounds as possible," of a certain move done in a given amount of time.
Can I do CrossFit every day, or do I need to supplement with another exercise?
"You can absolutely do other things with CrossFit, but the goal is that we cover all your fitness bases if you are coming in 3-4 days a week," says Josh Newman, co-founder of CrossFit NYC. Most CrossFitters don't also go to other fitness facilities to work out in addition to CrossFit, and they find that even up to 5 days a week is more than enough to get the fitness results they are looking for. "Hit it hard and go home," says Newman. If you don't want to give up your favorite cycling class, take a day off at the box to go; don't overwork yourself, as rest days are key in CrossFit!
Will I bulk up from using heavy weights?
Lifting all those weights will give you muscles like a body-builder, right? So not true, says Curley. "Your average CrossFit body will just get thinner and fitter," says Curley. She says the bulky muscles of female athletes are the product of hours and hours of training.
What's the deal with "Rhabdo?"
You may have heard about rhabdomyolysis, a condition caused by overworked muscles in which muscle cells literally explode. Rhabdo, as it's commonly called, can cause everything from muscle soreness and weakness to kidney failure and death, and while there have been cases in the CrossFit community, it exists in other spaces too.
Nadya Swedan, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in New York City, says Rhabdo is extremely rare, but that CrossFit in particular may be linked to the condition because it unites body building methods (high weights and repetition) with the average person who is inexperienced, undereducated, and possibly out of shape.
Rhabdomyolysis is no secret to CrossFitters, and is addressed by CrossFit at the national level. "We at CrossFit NYC, emphasize prevention in all aspects of training and coach certification," says Newman. "More broadly, we, like any responsible gym, cater our beginner classes in every way possible to reduce the chance of injury of any kind, whether it's a pulled muscle, rhabdo, or even a heart attack."
Education about prevention is the key to staying safe. "It's all about differentiating between the right and the wrong kind of pain, " says Swedan, who adds that if you measure pain on a scale of 1-10, you should never push yourself past an 8. She also recommends drinking lots of water to keep your muscles hydrated.
What's your number-one tip for a CrossFit newbie?
Curley and Newman both felt the biggest piece of advice they could give was not to be discouraged. You may be sore and tired after Day 1 (or 2 or 3,) but "keep coming," says Curley. "Your body will get used to it."
As with anything else, you won't be perfect right away. "Getting good at CrossFit is embracing the Zen of sucking," says Newman, "The people who succeed are not the people who are the best when they come in, but the ones that have the attitude that they expect they will not be that good at it and are OK with not being that awesome initially."
For Curley, the room for growth is one of the things she enjoys about CrossFit. "You get so excited to see improvements happening," she says, "like lifting a different-sized kettlebell or doing a pushup without your knees."Ready for your first class? You know you are!
By: Sara Angle of SELF Magazine
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